Starting Your Interior Design Project

Part 1 of our #JUSTASKADESIGNER 101 series.

As a #professional #interiordesigner, I've developed my own system for tackling #designprojects over the years. I am happy to share it with you. I hope it inspires you, whether you are a designer, working with a designer, or going the #DIY route.

What I've learned is that with the right client focused approach, using basic #interiordesign principles, and good #organization, there is no project I can't handle.

When approaching a new project. I like to think of myself as more of a director of a play than a designer. Each project is a new work. Sometimes its a drama, sometimes its a musical and every now and then its a comedy.

I imagine all the elements as a part of that new play. I have to build the perfect stage to set the scene, I need beautiful lighting to set the right mood. I need amazing actors to tell the story and bring it to life. But most importantly, I need to make the audience believe it. I'm a sucker for happy endings.

Analyze the Space

The first thing I always do is walk through and discover the space for myself. Even if, all I have is photographs, I try to imagine myself standing in the middle of the room.

I study the space's size, shape, potential usage, and imagen the flow of the space. I look at all the details, the #architecture, #moldings, #fireplace, #flooring, everything that does or can make the room unique. These 'fixed' elements are the bones of the room. This is the stage.

Next, I study the #naturallight, exposure to the sun, the windows. I examine the #lighting; #lamps, #sconces, and #chandeliers. Is the room facing south or west? These 'ambient' elements all set the tone and mood of the space. This is the stage lighting.

Bad lighting can ruin even the best designed room. But if you ask me, a badly lit room is not well designed. ~HH

Lastly, I examine the #furnishings, #colors, #fabrics, and #textures. I note the #art, collections, and #photographs. What story is this room trying to tell? These are the actors.

Have a Conversation

At this point, most designers go straight into their 'I know best' mode and start creating a plan with little input from the people who know the space best, the clients. I like to sit down with my clients and do a full interview to get their understanding of what they love and what they hate before I start my own #designprocess.

Continuing with the comparison of a design project to a play, understand that the client is the audience. So it is very important to know they hired you to write an Oscar winning musical, not a telenovela in Spanish. They want to sing along, not cry. Always give the audience what they want, and more.

If someone hires a designer, its usually because there is a #designproblem. Maybe they don't trust their own instincts, maybe the space isn't functioning for them, or maybe they just don't have the time. The reasons are many and varied. I always like to know why I am there and what is my most useful and ultimate purpose. Sometimes, I am a sounding board and end up just being a #projectmanager. Other times, I am a #spaceplanner and #creativeresource and they manage the project themselves. Most often, I do it all.

We talk about how they intend to use the space, styles they love, what they want to keep and what they want to change. We discuss their part in the design process. I like to give my clients homework, little projects like gathering magazine clippings or screenshotting images they see on the internet, that help me learn their design style.

This conversation, at the beginning of the process, is the most important part of the entire desing process as it will determine success or failure going forward. This sets the tone and #scope of the project. Expectations are clear. Roles are defined. #Budgets and #pricing structures are explained and agreed upon. Now everyone can move forward.

Take Notes

Now that I know the room inside and out and had a great conversation with my clients, its time to start doing some actual designing. I like to start a #notebook.

The first thing I write down is what works and what doesn't work in the space, keeping in mind my conversation with the owners. Often its a jumble of ideas, a list of to-dos, and things to research. I look for ways to improve layout and traffic flow. I look at seating requirements, conversation zones, places to eat, sleep and relax. It all has to tie together and flow seemlessly.

Create a Space Plan

Next, I #sketch. Sometimes on paper, but usually in a #CAD program like #Sketchup. Its easier to create the room digitally and move #furniture around to get that perfect layout. At this stage in the #spaceplanning there is no concern for style, fabrics or colors which comes at the end. Its all about use of space and function.

Depending on the project, we may also be looking at moving walls, adding interior details, and upgrades to electrical, plumbing or HVAC systems. Its an intricate dance of design, building requirements, function, asthetics, and client demands in the final design.

Generate a Purchase List

The Space Plan is your best tool for creating a #purchaselist. Establish the layout and pieces you need, then go through the plan and start writing down everything. Living room: 1 sofa, 2 loung chairs, 1 8' x 10' rug, 1 cocktail table, and so forth. I like to put it into a #spreadsheet and then based on conversations with the client I'll start putting in pricing estimates for each item. This tool will help build a real #budget. This usually sparks a conversation with clients, a good and necessary conversation.

If certain areas are under budget, say furniture, then a client may realize they have enough money to redo that upstairs bathroom. Or conversely, if the new nursery costs more than expected, they may want to cut back on the #kitchenrenovation or maybe hold off purchasing furniture items. There is nothing worse than a disorganized designer who needs a big chunk of change at the end of the project. It is unprofessional and unnecessary if they manage the project correctly.

If you're busy selecting fabrics on day one with your designer before they've established a purchase list and budget, then you're working with the wrong interior designer. ~HH

If you know you're spending $3,500 for a sofa instead of $3,000 then you know you'll be over budget or need to cut somewhere else. On that same list you can start adding other elements or changes that need to happen with each space. Living room: new paint, new molding, fix floorboards, new door, and so forth.

This list is super helpful in so many way. Its a great #collaboration tool between designer and client. It helps establish and convey budget. Its a great buying tool that keeps clients focused on necessary purchases.

Define Your Style

Now that the purchase list is established its time to get out the #paintchips, #colorswatches, #carpetsamples, #fabrics, and #finishes. This is where we select the costumes that will make our actors performances shine.

I won't get into too much more detail on defining your style in this article other than to point out that it is not the first thing you tackle in a design project. There are many things to do before you start looking at fabrics. Take the time to consider everything I mentioned,

  • Analyse the space - know what you are working with

  • Have a conversation - get on the same page with your designer

  • Take notes - brainstorm your ideas and get them written down

  • Create a space plan - establish usage and function

  • Generate a purchase list - an important collaboration and budget tool

  • Define your style - select your fabrics, colors, and textures

If you and/or your #interiordesigner can do all that then you are off to a great start and your #interiordesign project is sure to be a success.

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